Building an “Intelligence Literature”
Looking back upon the more than 1,200 articles in Studies, we see that Sherman Kent indeed established something enduring.
A half-century has passed since Sherman Kent lamented the lack of an “intelligence literature” and decided to do something about it—a bold step, even for as nimble a bureaucracy as the CIA was alleged to be. Today, looking back upon the more than 1,200 article-length contributions that comprise five decades of Studies in Intelligence, we see that Kent indeed established something enduring. Somewhere along the way, Studies went from being Kent’s revolutionary idea to becoming an institution. And yet, Studies continues to be revolutionary in its insistence on remaining an unofficial publication for the best thinking on intelligence from the entire profession—thinking that is often provocative, always cogent, and inevitably adds to the corpus of intelligence literature.
This reflection on the past 50 years of Studies in Intelligence is based on my experience as a longtime reader, a sometime contributor, and a current member of its editorial board. In addition, I spent much of the summer of 2005 going through all the issues of Studies since it appeared in 1955—a fascinating journey in itself. In keeping with a tradition unbroken since the first issue, the thoughts expressed here are my own, reflect no official views whatsoever, and are intended as much to provoke discussion as to inform. I have also decided to include interesting or odd facts that my research has uncovered, for the benefit of the true Studies junkies I know are out there.
[Top of page]
Even if one knew that Sherman Kent during 1953–54 had argued for the creation of a scholarly publication on intelligence (along with an Institute for the Advanced Study of Intelligence), it would be a mistake to say that what Kent first begot was an actual journal. It was really an experiment to test the viability of a journal.
The small-format, yellow, softcover publication that emerged from the CIA’s Office of Training in September 1955 was a modest endeavor with none of the hallmarks of a journal: no declaration that this was “volume one, number one,” no masthead, no editors listed by name, and no self-description as a journal. Calling itself a “monograph series,” the first Studies led with Kent’s famous essay, still worth reading, on the need for the intelligence discipline to have a literature that would result in the accumulation of knowledge necessary to form the basis of a true profession. The second half of that first issue comprised the unnamed editors’ thoughts on how Kent’s proposal should be accomplished, namely, that the publication should be unofficial, contain a mix of classified and unclassified articles, avoid publishing anything resembling a finished intelligence product, and put forward the “best views” of CIA people—there was as yet little thought given to the Intelligence Community, which in the mid-1950s existed more in theory than in practice. Responsible debate would be encouraged and the submissions were not to be “coordinated” in order to let “experienced officers systematically speak their minds”—all with the goal of supporting the development of intelligence into a “respected profession.”
The next two issues emerged roughly on a quarterly basis and continued in the same “monograph series” vein: the January 1956 issue, with two articles on assessing capabilities, and the May issue, with two on economic intelligence. The authorship was impressive and was no doubt meant to be: Abbot Smith of the Board of National Estimates wrote one of the articles; Max Millikan, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who had helped create economic intelligence at the CIA, wrote another. Two soon-to-be-standard features appeared at this early date: a “bibliographic section” that would evolve into Studies’ popular book review section, and informed commentary on articles recently published. The foundation of an “intelligence literature”—as well as necessary discussion about it—had begun.
[Top of page]
Studies Breaks Out as a Journal
Even with this impressive start and the backing of senior CIA leaders, there was an interval of some 16 months before Studies in Intelligence burst forth as a journal in the fall of 1957 with volume 1, number 4. While the record is silent on the reason for the delay, it is reasonable to speculate that Kent wanted that issue to make a splash. Consequently, the first issue of Studies as a bona fide journal contained nine articles (by such luminaries as Ray Cline, R. J. Smith, Ed Allen, and Air Force intelligence chief John Samford), three book reviews, and some recommendations by Walter Pforzheimer on further reading. Topics included the relationship of intelligence to strategy, the coordination process (an eternal bugaboo!), technical collection, how to approach research, and industrial intelligence. This early Studies was primarily, but not exclusively, a CIA venture: The lead article by Gen. Samford, as well as the editors’ appeal for articles “from any member of the Intelligence Community,” represented an understanding that the “literature of intelligence” should not be a CIA monopoly. To show the highest level support for the new venture, Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Allen Dulles provided a foreword that noted its value “as a dynamic means of refining our doctrines . . . [that] cannot but improve our capabilities to turn out a better product.”
Sporting a new cover and a masthead that included the listing of a distinguished editorial board headed by Sherman Kent, the first issue as a journal also put forward the journal’s editorial policy. Undoubtedly written by Kent himself, that policy has continued without substantive change to this day:
Articles for the Studies in Intelligence may be written on any theoretical, doctrinal, operational, or historical aspect of intelligence.
The final responsibility for accepting or rejecting an article rests with the Editorial Board.
The criterion for publication is whether or not, in the opinion of the Board, the article makes a contribution to the literature of intelligence.
Besides setting forth an enduring editorial policy, the issue also established the editorial board as the last word on what appeared in Studies. The first board included probably as formidable a group of CIA minds as could be assembled: Sherman Kent, then head of the Board of National Estimates, as chairman; Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick; General Counsel Lawrence Houston; senior economist Edward Allen; and former Legislative Counsel Walter Pforzheimer.
[Top of page]
The Sherman Kent Legacy
The success of Studies that we are commemorating in this jubilee year owes much to Sherman Kent, who not only conceived and nurtured the idea of a professional intelligence journal, but also continued to oversee its development until his retirement in 1968.
[Top of page]
Book Reviews in Studies:
Intelligent Literature about Intelligence Literature
Judging both from readers’ comments over the years and from the enthusiasm demonstrated in the contributions received, the book review section of Studies in Intelligence has long been a favorite—for many, the favorite—part of the journal. Sherman Kent’s initial essay did not explicitly cite the need for book reviews, but the September 1955 issue included a promise from the editors for a section reviewing the “literature which can sometimes be studied with profit by intelligence officers.” Indeed, the second issue premiered such a “Bibliographic Section,” intended to highlight “books or articles . . . that have a close relation to the subject of a [Studies article] . . . . This will have the primary purpose of directing the reader’s attention to items in the existing literature, overt and classified, which in our judgment make a contribution to the development of sound intelligence doctrine.” Kent himself wrote the first review (anonymously) and, according to Studies’ archives, eventually wrote eight more.
Studies quickly abandoned the idea of reviewing books connected solely to the subject matter in its articles: The first issue of Studies as a journal (Fall 1957) contained three classified critiques of current books that had little to do with the articles, plus it debuted Walter Pforzheimer’s compendium of mini-reviews of intelligence-related books that the editors “thought looked interesting enough to call to the attention of the readers of these Studies in Intelligence.” Herewith was set a structure and pattern that exists to this day. The mini-review subsection has gone by various names over the years—“We Spied . . . ,” “Public Texts in Intelligence,” “Briefly Noted,” “Books in Brief,” and “The Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf”—but the overall book review section has been titled “Intelligence in Recent Public Literature” since late 1959—another enduring (and perhaps endearing) Studies tradition.
The value of a book review in Studies, as readers long ago figured out, related to the special knowledge, experience, or position of the reviewer. Who would not find irresistible, for example, a review of Christopher Andrew’s For the President’s Eyes Only, by longtime PDB editor and White House briefer Chuck Peters? Or Dick Holms’s review of a book on the war in Laos? Whether it was Sherman Kent on an OSS history, Walter Pforzheimer on a biography of Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner on Dulles’s Craft of Intelligence, or George Allen on a treatment of Vietnam, readers could rely on Studies to provide assessments of intelligence literature unavailable anywhere else. Reviews, of course, often reveal something about the reviewer: It is possible still to marvel at William Colby’s review of a book on World War II operations in Norway—where he had operated while in the OSS—in which he not once uses the personal pronoun “I.”
Readers also could count on frank language, particularly for those books to be avoided. One wonders whether word ever got back to L. Fletcher Prouty about what Walter Pforzheimer thought of his book about the CIA, The Secret Team: “Reading it is like trying to push a penny with one’s nose through molten fudge.” Christine Flowers, who did the mini-review section for several years, was a master of the withering one-liner: “A vicious little book by a vile little man” (Joseph B. Smith’s Portrait of a Cold Warrior) and “A second-rate book about a second-rate operation bungled by second-rate officers” (Henry Hurt, Shadrin) are two of her best.
Occasionally, Studies would single out a significant book for extraordinary treatment. One such case was Thomas Powers’s The Man Who Kept the Secrets, which was discussed at length in a review essay by John Bross in the Spring 1980 issue, accompanied by shorter reviews by Walter Pforzheimer and Donald Gregg, each bringing a different perspective. Whether one agrees with reviews or not, they always make for great reading.
Kent sought the widest possible distribution for Studies. Recognizing the challenges, he warned in the initial issue that “the plain fact is that ‘security’ [note the word’s placement in quotation marks] and the advance of knowledge are in fundamental conflict.” He got his way, at least for the first few issues. Beginning in 1959, however, the requests for foreign dissemination and release to foreign nationals required the existence of Studies to “be treated as information privy to the US official community.” Moreover, issues from 1964 on were numbered and subject to recall. The warning about the journal’s existence and the numbering of issues were dropped in 1992. Not only was Studies preparing its first all-unclassified issue that year, but also maintaining secrecy about the journal’s existence seemed silly in the wake of the “coming out” of both the President’s Daily Brief and the National Reconnaissance Office.
From the beginning, it was recognized that unclassified articles and reviews were valuable and should be handled differently. Starting with the Spring 1958 issue, the journal was published in two sections. The unclassified section, often with two or three articles and book reviews, had its own table of contents and was intended to be separated from the main issue. This practice was discontinued after Kent’s retirement, and unclassified articles were merely marked as such within the classified issues. The first wholly unclassified issue appeared in 1992, a reprint of selected items from previous issues. Today, half the issues each year are unclassified and readers know that the green-covered Studies can be taken home, while the blue-covered ones must stay at the office. Kent would be pleased by the wide distribution Studies now receives through its electronic posting on classified and unclassified Web sites.
Under Kent’s direction, Studies quickly established itself as a well-written, provocative, and eclectic publication of intelligence theory and practice, with articles of high quality and relevance, many of which still stand up after decades. In the Summer 1958 issue, for example, the experience of various interrogation experts was brought together for an article that might profitably be read today by counterterrorism officers. Those considering working in the Mideast today would benefit from the cross-cultural advice for operations officers provided in 1964 with “Face Among the Arabs.” Ray Cline’s 1957 piece, “Is Intelligence Over-Coordinated?” (answer: yes), would provide perspective to those grappling today with the issue. Present-day analysts can take heart from Frank Knapp’s observation in the Spring 1964 issue that editors change analysts’ drafts in mystifying ways. Students of intelligence failure should study Sherman Kent’s own mea culpa regarding his mistaken view in September 1962 that the Soviets would not risk placing offensive missiles in Cuba.
[Top of page]
The Studies in Intelligence
Over the years, the Studies editorial board has comprised a virtual Who’s Who drawn from all directorates of the CIA and, increasingly, the Intelligence Community. More than 100 individuals have served on the board. The longest serving was Laurence Houston, at 19 years. Four current members have served for more than 10 years each: William Nolte (13), Jon Wiant (13), Dawn Eilenberger (11), and Denis Clift (10).
In line with its charter, the board, at its quarterly meetings, discusses all submissions presented to it by the editor, who has the authority to cull indisputably below-standard items. Board members read and prepare commentary on several dozen articles on average. They all have demanding jobs; devoting time to this kind of careful and thoughtful review is a tribute to their commitment to the quality of Studies in Intelligence.
[Top of page]
Have you ever looked over the table of contents of an issue of Studies, or its list of contributors, and wondered “Why haven’t I heard of this or that person?” Over the years, but particularly in its first two decades, many contributors to Studies chose to conceal their true identities with pen names. Overall, more than 15 percent of the articles written for Studies have appeared under false names.
As for the pen names themselves, some in their Anglo-Saxonness have been quite ordinary, probably deliberately so: “Martha Anderson” and “Richard Framingham,” for example. Others, no doubt inside jokes, sound positively Monty Pythonesque (“Thomas Meeksbroth,” “R. H. Sheepshanks”). Several were more appropriate for romance novels (“Horatio Aragon,” “Adam Jourdonnais,” “Carlos Revilla Arango”) but admittedly were improvements on the true names. And a few were real hoots: The author of an article on the importance of learning foreign languages was “Pierre Ali Gonzales-Schmidt,” and a critique of an article was submitted by “Ralph Riposte.” Then we have the single word monikers: “Inquirer,” “Expatriate,” “Onlooker,” “Diogenes,” and “Chronomaniac” (who wrote a piece on geo-time and intelligence).
Some pseudonymous authors apparently sought transformation. Writing on Chinese factories, one writer Sinocized himself. Another with a stout Irish name became “Viktor Kamenev”—this for an article on “The Standardization of Foreign Personal Names.” A senior officer with an easy Italian name became “J. J. Charlevois,” when he was not “A. V. Knobelspiesse.” Several male authors used female pseudonyms; one received three Studies awards as “Rita.” By contrast, in 50 years there was only one case in which a female writer sought anonymity as a male.
The collective imperative would sometimes be manifest: Coauthors would use one pen name—in one case, four authors with perfectly fine names combined under “Max Hatzenbeuhler” to write about operations in a certain region. One of the journal’s most prolific authors wrote under a different nom de plume no less than 13 times, using such diverse monikers as “Anthony Quibble,” “Don Compos,” “Sandra Richcreek,” and “Eduardo Tudelo.” He wrote under his own name, too, and in keeping with the sanctity of Studies’ pen names, I will not disclose it here. By contrast, many names sounded like pseudonyms but were not. I was wrongly convinced that Ernest Chase, for example, must have been a counterintelligence officer (he was an economist at the State Department).
While it is not surprising that CIA operations officers wrote for Studies under cover—tradecraft habits die hard—until now it was not widely known that some famous ones had been Studies authors: Eloise Page, Cord Meyer, Ray Rocca, Ray Garthoff, Peter Bagley, Theodore Shackley, Frederic Schultheis, and Joe Hayes. Readers will have to guess which articles they wrote.
Finally, there are those pseudonymous authors of Studies who are TNU—True Name Unknown. They submitted their drafts anonymously, with a pen name attached, and their identities simply were never recorded by the Studies staff. If someone knows the true identities of the following, please let me know: “Lester Hajek,” “Charles Marvel,” “Albert Riffice,” “Gabriel D’Echauffour.”
A selection from the articles mentioned above illustrates that the high quality articles were also eminently readable:
Interrogation experts: Maltreating the subject is from a strictly practical point of view as short-sighted as whipping a horse to his knees before a thirty-mile ride.
Cline: Being in favor of coordination in the US intelligence community has come to be like being against sin; everyone lines up on the right side of the question.
Knapp: The editor smoothes the ruffled feelings of the analyst in the following terms: “The reader will see a double meaning. . . . . The reader won’t understand.” The clairvoyance of editors with respect to the thoughts and reactions of this lone reader is nothing less than preternatural. Embarrassingly, however, their psychic or telepathic finds are occasionally reversed by the higher editorial echelon, which not infrequently restores the analyst’s original phrasing or something like it.
Kent: Any reputable and studious man knows the good and evil of the ways of thought. No worthy soul consciously nourishes a prejudice or willfully flashes a cliché; everyone knows the virtues of open-mindedness; no one boasts imperviousness to a new thought. And yet even in the best minds curious derelictions occur. (Kent was intimately familiar with “best minds” and “curious derelictions.”)
The two characteristics of the journal that Sherman Kent particularly nurtured while he was at the helm were its comprehensiveness and its eclecticism. All aspects of collection were covered, from the clandestine acquisition of documents to technical collection and mining open sources. The challenges of analysis, including treatment of successes and failures, were highlighted. Covert and clandestine operations received a surprising amount of attention—of particular note were the articles by experienced officers on how to recruit, handle, and work with individuals from diverse cultures. Studies’ readers were treated to articles on training, intelligence organization, management, even public relations. The journal looked at the handling of increasing amounts of information using new processes, including computers. Reflecting newly uncovered information on historical intelligence operations, especially from World War II, there was a plethora (some might say an overabundance) of historical articles in Studies. So many valuable articles on counterintelligence (CI) were published—significant, considering this also was the era of legendary CI chief James Angleton—that the CI staff reissued the collection separately as “Readings in Counterintelligence,” in two volumes: 1957–64 and 1964–74.
If Studies had one failing during the Kent era, it was that the journal was less than successful at encouraging contributions from outside the CIA, even though it explicitly sought “the advice and participation of every member of the intelligence profession to do the job well.” Despite an abundance of articles on assessing foreign militaries, for example, few contributions came from the US military. Studies did run several articles by air force officers on the role of intelligence in air operations— but similar treatments by navy or army officers are absent.
In 1968, to honor Kent as he retired, the annual Studies in Intelligence award (given since 1960) was renamed. Today, the Sherman Kent Award, presented for “the most significant contribution to the literature of intelligence submitted to Studies,” remains the Oscar of intelligence literature. Unlike the Oscars, however, it is not necessarily awarded every year, only when an article is deemed “sufficiently outstanding.” In 16 years out of 45, no Kent Award has been given, a record that underscores the high standards the journal’s editor and editorial board have maintained.
[Top of page]
Life after Kent
Studies in Intelligence made few changes when Kent retired. The editorial board maintained a great deal of continuity well into the 1970s, first under Abbot Smith and then under Hugh Cunningham. And when Philip Edwards retired as editor, shortly after Kent left, that position likewise saw little change for almost a decade, first under Joseph Mathews and then Clinton Conger.
In general, the contents of the journal followed the same eclectic and comprehensive path set down by Kent. There were still many contributions to the history of intelligence, but the plethora of articles on World War II matters dropped off somewhat. Thanks to a series of articles, many of them award-winning, by legendary imagery analyst Dino Brugioni, readers were treated to an informal course in making sense of overhead photography. Consistent with current events and readers’ interests, there were an increasing number of articles on Southeast Asia, in addition to the continuing treatment of matters Soviet and Chinese.
The change to an 8½-by-11–inch format in 1972 allowed greater flexibility for graphics. The first graphic representation in the journal had been a simple flowchart of analysis on the Soviet economy that appeared in the third issue (May 1956). Interestingly, the first maps had nothing to do with contemporary intelligence matters: The Winter 1958 issue ran high-quality, color representations of Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland in September 1862. Studies debuted the fold-out in an article on management of data for air targeting (Spring 1959): a targeting form used by Air Force analysts (and helpfully marked “Note: Target is Fictitious”). The next innovation, black and white photography, appeared in the following issue: a portrait of William Donovan, accompanying Allen Dulles’s tribute to the recently deceased OSS director, along with photographic reproductions of letters between Donovan and President Franklin Roosevelt on the issue of centralized intelligence. Color reproductions of forged postal stamps brightened the Summer 1960 issue, and probably more than one reader took up a penknife in the spring of 1963 to remove the detailed, color, fold-out map of the China-India border region. By the mid-1960s, graphs, charts, diagrams, and photographs were standard fare, particularly for the more technical articles. Full color photography, however, had to wait until the Spring 1980 issue (this was not LOOK magazine, after all), with stunning photos of the engineering of the Glomar Explorer.
[Top of page]
Editors of Studies in Intelligence: Encouraging, Cajoling, and Ensuring Quality
In 50 years, there have been only 10 chief editors of the journal. Given the too-frequent turnover typical in the ranks of intelligence organizations, this continuity has contributed to the quality of the publication.
Charles M. Lichenstein: 155-1956
James T. Lowe: 1957-1958
Philip K. Edwards: 1958-1968
Joseph O. Matthews: 1968-1972
Clinton Conger: 1972-1978
Richard Kovar: 1978-1980
Paul Corscadden: 1980-191980-1983
Nathan Nielsen: 1983-1988
Paul Arnold: 1988-2001
Barbara Pace: 2001-present
In keeping with the intent of the journal to provide readers with the “best thinking” on diverse intelligence topics, Studies in the mid-1970s began to issue specially classified supplements to the regular issues, dealing with matters at the Top Secret Codeword level. These usually had to do with SIGINT or space imagery, although the supplement for the Summer 1973 issue comprised three articles, classified Secret, on early CIA history regarding the clandestine services. Some later Studies supplements published special studies commissioned by the Center for the Study of Intelligence, such as on US intelligence and Vietnam (1984).
Content patterns relevant to various time periods can be detected. For example, despite the attempts to reach readers by publishing special supplements, the number of articles dropped off in the 1970s coincident with the Agency’s “Time of Troubles” over public revelations and congressional inquiries into past CIA activities. Occasionally, an issue of the journal was even cancelled due to a dearth of quality submissions. Some issues had only three articles. Not surprisingly, counterintelligence pieces seem completely absent from this period. Also not surprisingly, beginning in the 1970s there was an increase in the number of articles dealing with such topics as legislative oversight, the CIA and the law, secrecy in a democracy, declassification, executive privilege, and the CIA’s power of prepublication review.
[Top of page]
Into the 1980s
Studies articles in the 1980s paid more attention to the subject of making analysis— particularly political analysis— relevant for policymakers through improving the current intelligence and estimative processes as well as analytic tradecraft. In developing a literature on dealing with terrorism, the journal once more was helping prepare its readers for the future: Lance Haus’s treatment of the challenges of analyzing terrorism, particularly his warning not to confuse activity with productivity, seems prescient. Similarly, Bruce Reidel’s description of the institutional devil’s advocate used by the Israeli military presaged wider discussion of the concept years later, especially in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Writers for Studies in the 1980s also focused on the phenomenon of burgeoning broadcast media— witness the several articles on the value of collecting open source material through television.
Another trend during the decade was the growth in the number of humorous pieces—tongue-in-cheek articles, funny vignettes, amusing imagery, even some doggerel. One speculates that, after the travails of the 1970s, Studies served as a therapeutic outlet by becoming a vehicle for those who sought refuge in humor. The foundation for such pieces had been laid in the 1950s, beginning with an essay on the English language as a barrier to communication and a lead article on working with officials of another country that interspersed solid observations about the process with cross-cultural comments worthy of present-day humorist Bill Bryson. Most of the light-hearted writing in Studies, however, appears in the post-Kent period. Of special note is the only article to have been reprinted twice after its initial publication: “Elegant Writing in the Clandestine Services,” by “Richard Puderbaugh,” who had good reason to stay anonymous.
Humor, admittedly, is quite subjective, so one’s favorites might not be another’s. Nonetheless, hard-working readers who are world-weary and need some laughter are encouraged to seek refreshment in these refuges:
Russ Bowen, “An Engineering Approach to Literature Appreciation” (Spring 1980): By plotting the frequency distribution of the nominal or “best” ratings of the nearly 700 authors to whom the system has been applied, a bell-shaped curve results . . . . To an engineer this is suggestive of some kind of consistent mechanism at work. On the other hand, some may view this result as simply evidence of a degree of intolerance or snobbishness on my part.
- Robert Sinclair, “The CIA Canoe Pool” (Spring 1984): A clothes brush at the office helps, but there are still days when I must try to maintain my dignity with patches of dried mud on the lower third of my trousers. Or spider webs.
Linda Lovett, “POEEDGR” (Winter 1986): Once upon my desk computer, as I read my “VM Tutor,” Came a message from a userID I’d not seen before—While I nodded, nearly napping, this odd message came up, zapping All the input I’d been tapping, tapping in for hours before. . . .
Roger Girdwood, “Burn Bags” (Summer 1989): Some people never go to the burn bag chute. But they never have a full burn bag in their workplace, either . . . . When you arrive at work one morning, you discover a trove of 25 burn bags in the place where you thought you had a popcorn popper. Fortunately, you can usually identify this culprit by making a careful analysis of his or her bag-stapling technique. Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two staple jobs are alike.
[And my personal favorite,] David Fichtner, “Taking Arms against a Sea of Enemies” (Summer 1992): Hamlet has made no public protest over his uncle’s succession . . . . Embassy reporting, however, states that there is a subversive campaign underway attacking the fundamental legitimacy of the current [Danish] government.
[Top of page]
Toward a New Century
Consistent with the journal’s success in previous decades, Studies articles in recent years have reflected the times and helped prepare readers for changes ahead by challenging them to think in new ways. One prescient article in 1990 anticipated the effects the information revolution would have on intelligence analysis: “The future is now . . . . The DI will have to deal with three major challenges: the information age, the devaluation of intelligence, and a crisis of self-doubt”—a neat summation of the problems that the DI has faced over the past decade. Another fact of life in the Internet age was foreshadowed in Joseph Seanor’s ground breaking article in 1992 on computer hacking.
Among the typically cogent, thoughtful pieces covering a wide array of intelligence topics, some stand out and, in fact, make for chilling reading years later. Consider the opening line of Kevin Stroh’s behind-the-scenes account of analysis on Iraq’s nuclear weapons: “CIA’s assessment of Iraq’s prewar nuclear weapons program was an intelligence failure.” Remember, this was written in 1995. Stroh’s article is key to understanding how intelligence on the same subject went wrong more recently, for in 1991 the CIA’s failure was its assessment that Baghdad had not gone as far as it really had.
Even more sobering is “The Coming Intelligence Failure,” offered by Russ Travers of DIA in 1996:
The year is 2001 . . . . As had been true of virtually all previous intelligence failures, collection was not the issue. The data were there, but we had failed to recognize correctly [their] significance and put [them] in context . . . . From the vantage point of 2001, intelligence failure is inevitable. Despite our best intentions, the system is sufficiently dysfunctional that intelligence failure is guaranteed.
Prescience is rare, of course, and is seen exclusively in hindsight. For every good prediction in back issues that gives a shudder today upon rereading, there probably was at least one wrong (but one hopes well-meaning and well-reasoned) assessment, such as the bold prediction in 1985, just as Gorbachev was coming to power in the USSR, that the passing of the old Soviet leadership “will not herald an era of major reforms . . . . The USSR will not experience anything approaching a genuine systemic crisis before the year 2000.” Ah, well, it happens to everyone. But it is also certain that Sherman Kent would point out that displaying prescience is not the point. The value of Studies in Intelligence is in its presentation of principles of the trade—things that worked and did not—and its postulation of what might reasonably be. To the degree that readers of Studies have their imaginations engaged and stimulated with speculative pieces, the journal has done its job.
[Top of page]
The Way Ahead
More than 1,000 individuals, from junior officers to Directors of Central Intelligence, and even an unwitting Soviet intelligence officer or two, have contributed articles to Studies over the years. A review reveals that, while the journal has many beloved writers of multiple articles, most contributors had just one excellent article in them—indeed, most of the memorable articles, I venture to generalize, were the single offering of one person who never wrote for Studies again (one hopes it was not because of the editing process). These included deputy directors of intelligence (Robert Amory, Ray Cline, Doug MacEachin), a future presidential adviser (William Bundy), a CIA inspector general (Fred Hitz), and a future Marine Corps commandant (P. X. Kelley). At the same time, Studies could not do without its serial contributors. The ten most prolific authors—Dino Brugioni, Jack Davis, Philip Edwards, Benjamin Fischer, Sherman Kent, Andrew Kobal, Henry Lowenhaupt, Donovan Pratt, Kevin Ruffner, Michael Warner— each wrote at least eight articles, and this listing does not include book reviews.
For the past 10 years or so—since about the time the Studies editorial board was opened to officers from the Intelligence Community at large—there has been an encouraging trend toward more submissions from outside the CIA, fully in keeping with the intent of Sherman Kent and the other founders of the journal. Much of this trend reflects the shift in civilian analytic and operational resources toward support of the military. Other developments will reinforce this tendency: the creation of the Director of National Intelligence and the demise of the DCI position; the widening of authorship of the President’s Daily Brief; and the creation of national centers for counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and counterproliferation. Through interactions with CIA colleagues, more intelligence professionals are likely to become acquainted with Studies in Intelligence, come to appreciate what it offers, and wish to contribute their perspectives to it. The current interagency editorial board encourages all intelligence officers to participate in that valuable accumulation of professional knowledge that is the main mission of Studies.
Another development faced by Studies in Intelligence—and, frankly, one with which the journal is still coming to grips— is the expansion of its readership beyond the province of the intelligence professional. For most of its history, Studies has published for the knowledgeable intelligence practitioner. With every other issue now unclassified and posted on the CIA Web site, and with many of its previously classified articles now declassified, Studies must consider its public, uncleared readers. Should the journal devote special attention to this new audience? How can it best serve this new readership— Should it publish more basic, “primer” pieces? Should it produce a glossary for readers who are not intelligence professionals? Just how much background knowledge is it safe to assume? Is there a danger that Studies might counterproductively be suspected of acting as a public advocate for the intelligence profession, for a particular intelligence policy, or for any of the agencies that compose the Intelligence Community? What other effects—positive and negative—might come from providing a subcorpus of intelligence literature to the general public? Will the journal be able to withstand potential pressures for self-censorship during this time of almost universal criticism of the performance of the Intelligence Community? Or is it more important than ever to provide a forum for scholarly debate about the intelligence profession?
Finally, the future of Studies in Intelligence is not isolated from that of the changing face of the Intelligence Community. The journal must reckon with its standing with the Director of National Intelligence, for example, especially as it continues to embrace a less CIA-centric approach in favor of one more community-oriented. There can be no doubt that Studies will change as a result of the issues it faces today; it is equally certain that it will continue to serve, for it has become indispensable. Intelligence historians resident in the Center for the Study of Intelligence frequently respond to questions—often from very high levels—regarding whether an activity has been tried before or a line of thinking raised before. One of the first sources they turn to is Studies in Intelligence and, as often as not, the answer lies in one of its 50 volumes— proof positive that Sherman Kent’s dream of creating an intelligence literature has been achieved.
After 50 years, Studies is still accomplishing its mission of accumulating the “best thinking” of intelligence thinkers and practitioners. That mission has remained unchanged. As Sherman Kent remarked during Studies’ 25th anniversary year: “The game still swings on the educated and thoughtful” intelligence officer.
[Top of page]
Studies and the Internet
With the advent of the Worldwide Web, CIA and Studies went public on a global scale. Introduced to cia.gov in 1995, unclassified issues of Studies and the unclassified articles extracted from classified issues are placed on the CIA Web site (under Center for the Study of Intelligence) not long after the journal is published in paper. Available on-line are issues back to 1992.
The site also includes an index of declassified articles available at the National Archives and Records Administration and a digital archive and index of about 600 other unclassified articles about the business of intelligence.
[Top of page]
Harold P. Ford, “A Tribute to Sherman Kent,” Studies in Intelligence 24, no. 3 (1980). Kent’s idea for an institute was not realized until 1974, with the creation of the Center for the Study of Intelligence, which became the home for the journal.
The 5½-by-8¾–inch format lasted through 1972.
Sherman Kent, “The Need for an Intelligence Literature,” Studies in Intelligence [hereafter Studies], September 1955. In the same issue, “The Editors” contributed their ideas on “The Current Program for an Intelligence Literature.” Studies’ archives indicate that Charles M. Lichenstein wrote the essay. Editor Lichenstein would later become the deputy US representative to the United Nations who in 1983 famously invited the UN to depart the United States (“We will put no impediment in your way and we will be at the dockside bidding you a farewell as you set off into the sunset”).
Abbot Smith, “Notes on Capabilities in National Intelligence,” Studies, January 1956. Max Millikan, “The Nature and Methods of Economic Intelligence,” Studies, May 1956.
It was not clear early on whether the Studies was [were?] a singular or a plural. In the Fall 1957 issue, for example, DCI Dulles remarks that “the Studies are designed to bridge the gap between experience and inexperience” and yet commends “the Studies in Intelligence to you and wish it all success in its mission” (author’s emphasis).
Yes, “the” Studies in Intelligence. Perhaps because of the journal’s start as “the Studies [monograph] series,” the definite article was attached and would live on in the journal’s editorial policy statement until 1994.
Internet site: http://www.cia.gov/
Peter Naffsinger, “Face Among the Arabs,” Studies 8, no. 3 (Summer 1964); Ray Cline, “Is Intelligence Over-Coordinated?” Studies 1, no. 4 (Fall 1957); Frank Knapp, “Styles and Stereotypes in Intelligence Studies,” Studies 8, no. 2 (Spring 1964); Sherman Kent, “A Crucial Estimate Relived,” Studies 8, no. 2 (Spring 1964).
At a time when a single computer could fill a room, an astonishingly prescient piece in 1960 predicted the day when “computers the size of a portable TV set will operate on wall socket power.” Joseph Becker, “The Computer— Capabilities, Prospects, and Implications,” Studies 4, no. 4 (Fall 1960).
Editor’s Introduction [prepared by Charles Lichenstein], Studies, January 1956.
In addition to the Kent prize, the editorial board presents some half dozen other awards for distinguished articles and book reviews each year, including one named after Walter Pforzheimer, for the best student submission.
Kent’s shadow continued to loom over Studies. In the 25th anniversary issue, for example, the retrospective written by Hal Ford was not on the journal so much as on its founder. Harold Ford, “A Tribute to Sherman Kent,” Studies 24, no. 3 (Fall 1980).
A ship outfitted to retrieve a sunken Soviet submarine.
Lance Haus, “The Predicament of the Terrorism Analyst,” Studies 29, no. 4 (Winter 1985).
Bruce Reidel, “Communication to the Editor,” Studies 30, no. 4 (Winter 1986).
Burney Bennett, “The Greater Barrier,” Studies 2, no. 4 (Fall 1958).
This article originally appeared in vol. 16, no. 1 (1972 Special Edition), was reprinted in the Fall 1980 issue, and appeared again in the spring of 1990. Studies is overdue to run it again.
Carmen Medina, “The DI Mission in the 21st Century,” Studies 34, no. 4 (Winter 1990). Joseph Seanor, “The Hannover Hackers,” Studies 36, no. 1 (Spring 1992).
Kevin Stroh, “Iraq’s Nuclear Weapons Program,” Studies 39, no. 4 (Winter 1995).
Russ Travers, “The Coming Intelligence Failure,” Studies 40, no. 2 (1996).
An accessible collection is Brad Westerfield, ed., Inside CIA’s Private World: Declassified Articles from the Agency’s Internal Journal, 1955–1992 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995).
Nicholas Dujmovic serves on the CIA History Staff.
[Top of page]